Nonprofit Percolator Films’ 2012 Talking Pictures Festival – its third – opens March 8 and runs through the weekend. Films from all over the world will be screened at three Evanston venues:
Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Next Theatre, 927 Noyes St.
Evanston Public Library, Community Room, 1703 Orrington Ave.
Medill School of Journalism (who are again partnering with Percolator), McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Drive

The entire schedule of films and where and when to see them can be found at http://www.talkingpicturesfestival.org/2012_Fest_Schedule.html, along with a short introduction to each.

Advance tickets can be purchased only online. That website is http://2012talkingpicturesfestival.eventbrite.com. Tickets for opening night for the film “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” are $12 doors in advance or at the door at Noyes Cultural Arts Center. The film begins at 7:30 p.m.

 Tickets for succeeding films cost $10; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. A “5-pack festival pass” is also available that offers five films for the price of four. This can be purchased during the festival at all festival venues. Percolator recommends that pass-holders arrive at least 30 minutes early to get seats.

Three diverse examples of these distinctive films are here reviewed by the RoundTable, to give an idea of the fine movie-making to be experienced at the Percolator Films Evanston community event, the Talking Pictures Festival.

“Miss Representation” USA/90 min/ Director: Jennifer Siebel Newsom
3:15 p.m. March 10 at Medill – McCormick Tribune Center.

An energetic and fast-paced film, “Miss Representation” presents both results of studies and well-edited interviews of women and men about the “symbolic annihilation” and objectification of women in the media that leads to both sexes seeing women – 51 percent of the population –as less powerful, less important, less interesting, less acceptable physically as they are.

Condoleeza Rice, Cory Booker, Rachel Maddow, Rosario Dawson, Gavin Newsom, and Margaret Cho are among the well-known interviewees. High school girls and boys also express their perception of women in the media. Interviews are presented both in person and voiced over photos, newspaper headlines, drawings, film clips, with an effective musical score.

Educators and others such as Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media and News and author of “Reality Bites Back, offer their considered views. Ms. Pozner says, “I really, truly believe that reality TV is the contemporary cultural backlash against women’s rights. Over the course of the last decade the only options for women mimic those of the 1950s model of femininity in which [women’s] only power lies in her beauty. …” She continues, “Nobody wins in this model. But women particularly lose … when they’re expected to look like Miss U.S.A., have sex like Samantha in ‘Sex and the City’ and think like June Cleaver.”

 “My So-Called Enemy” USA/ 89 min/ Director: Lisa Gossels,
1:30 p.m. on March 10 at the Evanston Public Library (free event)

This is an American film, but it is about a group of Palestinian Christian and Muslim and Israeli Jewish girls brought together in the U.S. by the nonprofit Building Bridges for Peace, founded by Melodye Feldman. The film follows the young women from their first camp, held in Bridgetown, New Jersey in 2002, during the first Intifada, through their return to their homes in different parts of Israel and elsewhere in 2010.

The camp is a place where the girls, in their mid-to-late teens, can not only engage in activities together and live together, but spend time talking, with and without mediation, about their lives and the futures they see for themselves and their people. It is very difficult at times for them to let go of hostility and preconceptions and converse. They are well-served by Ms. Feldman, who reminds them that being there “is not about getting each other to agree” but about learning how to listen and communicate. It is also about learning that women have a voice and that their voices can be used in the interest of peace. All of the girls express the feeling that they have been changed by the experience.

 This film, though often painful to watch, is enlightening on many levels. One example is that the viewer is shown how both Palestinian and Jewish girls have diversely religious and ideological upbringings. Some are more committed to peace from the beginning than are others. A girl whose father died because a “closure” prevented an ambulance from coming to their home found it hard at first to trust any Jews.

It is illuminating to observe how, back in Israel, when the Jewish girls’ involuntary army service becomes imminent, they are at once disturbed by feelings of “taking the other side” and excited about the new experience with others their age. It is hard to watch Rezan (a Christian Palestinian) and Gal (a Jew), who grew close at camp and maintained their friendship after returning to Israel, stand on the Arab side of the 26-foot-tall barrier wall near Jerusalem talking; Gal, who has done her service, has become defensive. It is clear, though, she still wishes for peace and still loves her Palestinian friend.

When the film closes, the viewer recognizes that the story does not. The different ways in which each of these young women stand prepared to meet their futures and whether or not they will use their voices to mold them is a powerful ending as well as a beginning to the untold part of their story.

“Maria My Love” USA/ 99 min/ Director: Jasmine McGlade Chazelle
3:00 p.m. on March 11 at Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Next Theatre

This film is an intensively moving depiction of a young woman’s transition from living in grief for the year following the death of her mother, her beloved Maria, to learning to live without her.

The relationships Ana makes, the steps she takes – some small, some huge – in this transition are sometimes uplifting, sometimes very sad, and always poignant. That the viewer does not feel manipulated is a credit to director and actors; the actress who plays Ana is extremely convincing, as are the actress who plays her half-sister and the actor who plays the young man she meets on the train near the beginning of the film who becomes her boyfriend. The elderly woman Ana befriends, who hoards useless objects and whose life became stuck at a point long ago, is played effectively (occasionally slightly over the top) by Karen Black of “Five Easy Pieces” fame. It is a film well worth seeing.